April 14, 2016
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

The Incredible Story of Nicolas Jarossay’s Abandoned Attempt to Paddle Across the Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic Stand Up Paddle Crossing

Nicolas Jarossay departed from Cape Verde on Sunday April 10th; He was hoping to become the first person to stand up paddle across the Atlantic Ocean but was rescued just hours later after deploying his distress beacon (photo: Horue Movie)

Last weekend, Frenchman Nicolas Jarossay boldly attempted to become the first person to stand up paddle across the Atlantic Ocean, however his brave voyage ended almost as soon as it began, with equipment failure forcing him to be rescued in rather dramatic fashion.

The 4,690km (2,915 miles) solo, unsupported crossing was expected to take 70-80 days, with Nicolas departing from Cape Verde (off the north west coast of Africa) and hoping to reach the Caribbean island of Martinique by the end of June. But instead of almost 5,000kms, Nicolas made it just 50kms before his historic crossing (and almost his life) ended in an instant.

Partly due to the language barrier and partly due to the fact Nicolas departed from such a remote location, news of exactly what happened was slow to trickle out. But now we know the full story about what went wrong. And it’s incredible.

In short: Nicolas almost died after one of the rudder lines broke and his board suddenly flipped over, leaving him at the mercy of the wild, open ocean until rescue crews eventually found him in the dark.

Fortunately Nicolas was safely rescued and taken to hospital — he has since emerged with no lasting injuries except a heavily bruised ego and the lingering thought of what could have been.

The brave adventurer gave his first interview of the ordeal yesterday, speaking with French media outlet 20 Minutes. The article is in French, but to save you from running a dodgy Google translation, TotalSUP (which has been supporting Nicolas since day one) has translated the interview into perfect English.

Check out the complete story on the link above, but the key points are:

– One of the board’s rudder lines broke on the first afternoon of paddling, which spun the board sideways and into the path of the wind and waves

– Before Nicolas even had time to react, a rogue swell slammed into the the board and flipped it over

– Given how heavy the board was (he was carrying ~75kg of food alone, not to mention all his gear and equipment) Nicolas was unable to right it and was therefore left bobbing up and down in the ocean, attached to his board only by his safety lines

– He was 50kms off the coast of Cape Verde when it happened, though fortunately the local rescue officials responded to his emergency distress beacon

– With night setting in and fuel running low, rescue teams were close to calling off the search when they finally spotted Nicolas in the dark (and this is Cape Verde remember — Nicolas was quite lucky there was even a rescue boat available to begin with)

– The coast guard attempted to tow Nicolas’ 21ft board (and all his gear) back to shore but it was so heavy that it was draining their fuel and therefore had to be cut loose

– Nicolas passed out twice on the boat from hypothermia and was subsequently rushed to hospital

– Oh and just to make the whole ordeal even more extreme; even the rescue boat itself broke down on the return to land, started taking on water and almost didn’t make it

Talk about a heavy experience.

You’ve gotta feel sorry for Nicolas: Three years of hard work, preparations and dreams were crushed in an instant by a simple piece of rudder string. And because the board was lost to the ocean, Nicolas will never know exactly why or how the freak accident occurred.

I chatted with Nicolas at the Paris Crossing in December and it seemed like he was ready for this incredible voyage both physically and mentally, so it’s very unfortunate he was undone by a simple piece of string. With his board gone, Nicolas doesn’t have the gear to make another transatlantic attempt any time soon, however he said he might try again if he can get another (hopefully more ocean ready) board manufactured. You’ve gotta admire the determination of this guy.

So in the end it was a rather cruel finish to a very brave attempt at creating history. But while of course it’s fantastic news that Nicolas was safely rescued without suffering any major injuries, it’s a little worrying that he set off without having a reliable method of righting his board in the event of a capsize; If this had happened 2,000kms from the coast, instead of 50km, Nicolas probably wouldn’t be doing any interviews at all.

Despite the setbacks, Nicolas remains positive that he can make a successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in the future. He just needs a new board…

Nicolas Jarossay Stand Up Paddle Transatlantique

Transatlantic stand up paddling crossing

Atlantic stand up paddle SUP crossing

Atlantic SUP crossing Nicolas Jarossay

Atlantic Crossing stand up paddle board

Nicolas Jarossay stand up paddle transatlantique

Nicolas Jarossay stand up paddle transatlantic

Atlantic Ocean Stand Up Paddle Crossing